If you are a fan of the Sherlock Holmes canon, you surely know about Reichenbach Falls. For those that aren’t up on the adventures of the world’s greatest detective (non-Batman category), Arthur Conan Doyle wrote what was to be the last Holmes story, entitled “The Final Problem”, and the climax had Holmes and his greatest adversary, Professor Moriarty, apparently grappling above the Reichenbach Falls until they both fell over the edge. Holmes’s companion, Dr. Watson, returns to the scene to find footprints going toward the Falls but none coming back.
Of course, that wasn’t the end of Holmes, as public outcry forced Doyle to eventually bring back the detective. So how did he survive? After his return, he gave his side of the story to Watson in “The Empty House”.
I had little doubt that I had come to the end of my career when I perceived the somewhat sinister figure of the late Professor Moriarty standing upon the narrow pathway which led to safety. I read an inexorable purpose in his gray eyes. I exchanged some remarks with him, therefore, and obtained his courteous permission to write the short note which you afterwards received. I left it with my cigarette-box and my stick, and I walked along the pathway, Moriarty still at my heels. When I reached the end I stood at bay. He drew no weapon, but he rushed at me and threw his long arms around me. He knew that his own game was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few seconds, and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went. With my face over the brink, I saw him fall for a long way. Then he struck a rock, bounded off, and splashed into the water.
That image came to me after watching the Cardinals and the Pirates last night. Two great competitors, locked in a struggle over the brink of almost virtual elimination. Neither side giving way, slipping out of whatever holds or moves the other would throw at them, until finally one got an advantage, pressed it, and survived the encounter.
I don’t think early on in the game many people would have expected the one that looked into the abyss instead of falling into it to be St. Louis, though. While Lance Lynn gutted out five scoreless innings, he did so with baserunners aplenty, allowing four hits and four walks in his time on the hill. Throwing almost double the pitches it took his counterpart J.A. Happ to get through the same amount of time, Lynn was able to curtail some of the damage by getting ground balls, which didn’t quite turn into double plays but at least let him get the lead runner off the basepaths at times.
What really saved Lynn, though, was some stellar defense. Gregory Polanco started the fifth inning by doubling. With the heart of the order coming up for the third time already, Lynn was walking the tightrope. However, Josh Harrison then hit a bouncing ball to short. Polanco, surprisingly, took off for third, trying to be aggressive. The ball bounced true to Jhonny Peralta, who turned and fired a seed to Matt Carpenter, who applied the tag. It was a strange decision, but it took an excellent play to get him.
However, our Hero is the one that really bailed Lynn out. The #SignJasonHeyward movement was in full effect last night and it had nothing to do with his offensive performance. In fact, Jason Heyward just had one infield hit all night, but he made his presence known.
I don’t remember the last time the Cardinals had an outfield that you were excited to see throw like we are with Heyward. His arm has been incredible and a joy to watch. In the second inning, with the bases loaded, Jordy Mercer flew out to medium right-center, which was close enough to where Heyward was playing at the time. Heyward called off Matt Holliday, caught the ball, and fired a strike home, nailing Starling Marte at the plate. Then, in the seventh, he made a diving stab of Mercer’s sinking liner with two on and one out, helping Steve Cishek get out of an inning that, honestly, I’m not sure that he deserved to get out of. When you walk three guys in one frame, it’s tough to put up a zero in the runs column. Unless you can get them to hit it toward Jason Heyward.
Things didn’t get any easier late. It was a frustrating top of the seventh as the Cardinals put runners on the corners with two outs, only to see Peralta wind up swinging at strike three in the dirt (after a solid at-bat, though). In the bottom of the seventh, the first out was so costly, as Peter Bourjos collided with Stephen Piscotty to make the catch. As many terrible injury moments the Cards have had this season, that probably was the scariest. Piscotty had just moved from right field to left field at the top of that inning, but I don’t think that had much to do with it. The ball was just in the wrong place and both men had to go full out to make sure it was caught. They just got to the same space at the same time and Bourjos’s knee apparently clocked a diving Piscotty in the head. (Which is slightly ironic, given that Bourjos took a knee to the head earlier this year, receiving the blow from David Ross of the Cubs as he scored the game-winning run.)
It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen a player have to go out on a cart. I was actually listening to the game at the time on the radio and continued to grow concerned as John Rooney talked about how long they were out there, how both sets of trainers were working on him, how the on-call doctors were getting to him (which almost never happens, in my memory; the trainers are usually enough). It was good that he was able to move around and wave to the crowd as he left, even better to hear that all the tests at the hospital showed no fractures or substantial damage. We’re not going to see Piscotty out there tonight or probably even tomorrow, but it does sound like this team that has been riddled with so many injuries may have dodged another bullet there. The last thing this squad needs was to go to the postseason without Piscotty, especially when being down Carlos Martinez already.
The teams grappled and grappled over that abyss before, as noted above, one team slipped. St. Louis had three hits in the first eight innings. They got three in the ninth, but the biggest play may have come from Polanco, who misplayed Jon Jay‘s hit (he didn’t say after the game that he was surprised Jay got a hit, which was nice of him) and Carpenter, who had singled with one out, was able to come around to score. Mark Reynolds then cracked a two-run homer to give everyone that cushion they wanted to keep their hearts from stopping in the bottom of the ninth.
Or so we thought. As I said on Sunday, you don’t take Jason Isringhausen‘s save record from him with a 1-2-3 inning. That’s borderline disrespectful to the former Cardinal closer. ÃTrevor Rosenthal kept the spirit of Izzy alive, walking Andrew McCutchen and allowing a single to Marte to put two on with nobody out. (The Cardinals walked 10 batters in this one. If you can walk 10 batters over nine innings and not allow a run, well, let’s just say we probably have a good idea of the frustration Pirates fans are feeling today.) Rosenthal got it together after that though, striking out Neil Walker, getting Francisco Cervelli to fly out to Heyward and then battling the Sith Lord, Aramis Ramirez, into a infield groundout to end the game.
Who’s the Goat in this one? I guess we’ll go with Brandon Moss, who was 0-2 with a strikeout before Tommy Pham pinch-hit for him in the eighth. Moss was in there because of some good history against Happ, but as we saw 1) small sample sizes aren’t the best for decision making and 2) both Moss and Happ were different folks when those stats were accumulated.
It was pretty interesting, I think, to see how long it took Pham to get into the game. Right before Piscotty was injured, he had moved to left field as Holliday had left the game. Heyward had moved over to right and Bourjos had been moved to center. When was the last time you saw Bourjos get time before anyone, especially Pham? Granted, it was a scoreless game in the seventh and probably it was for defensive purposes (and Pham likely doesn’t get that fly ball, though in that situation Piscotty isn’t reclining at Allegheny General right now, wondering exactly what that stuff on his plate is supposed to be), but it was still a little surprising. Then, when Piscotty was literally knocked out, Jay comes in. It worked out, of course–Jay’s hit wound up being key–but it was unexpected.
What exactly has Pham done to get buried on the bench? I understand he can’t play everyday anymore as you try to get Holliday and Matt Adams ready for the postseason, but to use every outfielder before you use him in a game like that? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t know if Mike Matheny doesn’t think the rookie can handle the pressure–which may also explain why we haven’t seen much of Miguel Socolovich and Sam Tuivailala–but I think that’s a pretty questionable way of looking at it. Pham was doing fine and he ought to get a chance to see how he does under pressure before just assuming he can’t handle it.
Apparently, after years and years of conclusive data, the Cardinals have figured out how to deal with Pedro Alvarez: don’t let him hit. St. Louis walked Alvarez three times, preferring to deal with Mercer and the pitcher’s spot than to deal with the guy that sometimes seems like he owes his continuing MLB career to the Redbirds. The walks weren’t all intentional only because Tony Cruz didn’t stand up and walk out to the side to receive them. Lynn did intentionally walk him in the second, which lead to the Heyward catch-and-throw double play, then threw him four pitches in the fourth to walk him and Cishek did the same to him in the sixth.
That strategy can only go so far, of course, and he came up in the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs after all the Piscotty stuff earlier in the frame. Kevin Siegrist was able to get him to fly out, which on the face of it was a bit surprising. Alvarez may be a lefty, but this year he’s hit lefties better than righties (though in a much, much smaller sample), though much of that has been done away from PNC Park. To be able to get out both Alvarez and Ramirez in big spots late in a tight game is impressive and, frankly, something I am stunned the Cardinals were able to do.
Adam Wainwright pitched off the PNC mound before the game yesterday and, assuming he comes to the ballpark healthy today, will likely be activated. If things go the way the Cardinals want, they’d win tonight without Waino and then let him back up the Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons in tomorrow’s game. Let Lyons go five, Wainwright two, then hopefully (since, with a win tonight, tomorrow’s game doesn’t mean anything), Socolovich and Tui to wrap it up. That’s the dream, we’ll see if they can live it.
The Cardinals have won 99 games and still haven’t clinched the division. Hopefully we see triple digits and spraying champagne tonight, because Gerrit Cole looms for tomorrow. Michael Wacha will take the ball today, looking to harken back to that October outing against the Pirates in 2013. A game like that would be huge, but Wacha’s been shakier of late, allowing 15 earned runs in 20 September innings. He faced Pittsburgh last on August 12, where he allowed two runs in six innings and picked up his 14th win. He faced the Pirates twice in May in back-to-back starts and did well then also, with a combined two runs in 12.2 innings. You’d like to think that, if he could keep it to two runs today, we’d be talking clinching in tomorrow’s post, though you never know with this offense.
Charlie Morton takes the hill for Pittsburgh, trying to keep things afloat for their ace to make a meaningful appearance on Wednesday. Morton’s overall numbers are not impressive (9-8, 4.54 ERA) and his last start was in Colorado, where he allowed six runs in 4.1 innings. However, one of his best starts recently was against St. Louis (I know, you are stunned) when he went six innings and allowed four hits and two runs (one earned) on September 5, though he still wound up losing that game. That was, surprisingly, the only time the Redbirds have seen him in 2015. By ERA, at least, Morton’s been significantly better at home and at night, so if he’s going to have a good game, this would be the time it happens.
It’s been a long, hard, bumpy road but the Cardinals can earn some rest with a win tonight. I’m pretty sure most of us fans wouldn’t mind four casual, no-stress games before the postseason starts either. Let’s see if they can’t push Pittsburgh into that Wild Card Game tonight!